The next actor to play James Bond will likely be a younger star as fans may have to wait until 2025 to find out, according to reports.
Sources close to the franchise say that any wannabe 007s older than their mid-30s are unlikely to make the cut, The Mirror reports.
It means that 40-year-old Scottish star Sam Heughan - who is a fan favourite for the role - could be left shaken and stirred by being deemed over the hill.
Other older actors tipped for the role include Tom Hardy, 43, Idris Elba, 48, Damian Lewis, 49, Michael Fassbender, 43, David Oyelowo, 44, and 44-year-old Cillian Murphy.
Luke Evans, 41, Orlando Bloom, 44 and Gillian Anderson, 52 – who was suggested by GQ magazine - could also be deemed too old to be Bond.
The likes of Tom Hiddleston, 39, Riz Ahmed, 38, Henry Cavill, 37, and Aidan Turner, 37, are on the borderline.
It means only a handful of actors rumoured to be in line for the role fit the age profile - including 34-year-old Scottish star Richard Madden.
Others include James Norton, 35, Jack Lowden, 30, Harry Styles, 26, Michael B. Jordan, 33, Regé-Jean Page, 31, Nicholas Hoult, 31, and Jamie Bell, 34.
Producers must surely take into account that Daniel Craig started filming his first Bond movie, 2006’s Casino Royale, when he was 36.
However, there is also the prospect that the next 007 could be an unknown actor – possibly someone who isn’t even on the scene yet.
It comes as Bond’s next outing unlikely before 2025 and MGM insiders say franchise boss Barbara Broccoli will not start looking for Craig’s replacement until No Time To Die is released.
Insiders say Barbara and Michael G. Wilson, who run production firm Eon, will not even consider screen tests for the new Bond until spring 2022.
It is likely that pre-production would start in 2023 at the very earliest, with the movie released at some point in 2024.
A studio source said: “James Bond fans are pulling their hair out. It has been six years since Spectre.
“But once Daniel is done, there is no rush to get the new Bond on screen.
“Firstly, Eon never casts or auditions new potential Bonds while one man has the role, so currently there is no successor to Daniel.
"The earliest that process will take place is 2022 – presuming the film gets a 2021 release.
“And the new script and new intro to the next 007 is not even in the pre-planning stage.
“Those things and pre-production often takes two years before cameras even start rolling.
“Another spanner in the works is the fact Covid has pushed back studio and film projects, meaning there is a back-up of work in Hollywood.
“Realistically, if everything goes smoothly, then the new Bond could be served up in late 2024, at the earliest.
“So do not be surprised if that is pushed back a year with a 2025 release. The team has always been focused on delivering the best release, rather than the quickest for the cash.”
Craig – the sixth actor to officially appear on screen as 007 – holds the record for the longest-serving Bond.
In the past 15 years, he has starred in five of the 25 spy movies.
If Bond 26 does not get released until 2025, it would make this the leanest period in the history of the franchise.
Never have eager fans had to wait so long for the next instalment to be released.
Over the years, the other actors to play the MI6 super-spy are Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan.